Sunday, May 30, 2010

Exhibition Opportunity in Manila and Beyond

Call for Proposals: Nothing to Declare, Manila 2011

We are initiating an independent project entitled Nothing to Declare, an International Contemporary Art Exhibition in Manila, Philippines from 25 October to 25 November 2011 with the possibility of traveling the exhibition to select countries in 2012 and 2013. Nothing to Declare will host a roster of international and local artists. We will also organize teachers’ training workshops, artist talks and group discussions as satellite activities to the program.

In brief, Nothing to Declare revolves around the following interrelated themes:
1. Shifting geographies emerging from diasporas, migrations, overseas work
2. Shifting identities arising from movement, mobility, displacement, exchange; implying a sense of rooted-ness and slippage, identification and estrangement, familiarity and alienation, entitlement and distance
3. Shifting spaces, connoting not just physical relocation, but mental and spiritual dis/position, as well as dislocations, gaps and silences that take place in immediate, virtual and hyper-realities
4. Shifting positions, implying an appreciation of difference and a willingness to dialogue, work together, listen and engage.
5. Shifting power relations, connoting multiple flows and streams of choices, constraints, control and conditions of creation, dissemination and reception
6. Shifting possibilities, connoting transformations and breaking grounds where marginality – of having nothing to declare - IS source of intervention and strength, of loss as well as triumphs

To participate in Nothing to Declare, please send us a proposal of, (preferably recent) artwork you would like to show OR a proposal for new work you will make and would like to exhibit. Include medium resolution (75-100 dpi) photographs or drawings to illustrate your proposal including installation requirements, size of the artwork, medium, etc.
Email proposals and inquiries to by the deadline on 30 August 2010.

For video works, please limit works to only single channel, and since video projection on screens are limited to availability, please allow works that can be displayed on LCD and/or on screen
For photography, works should be printed on aluminum without frames or mounted on foam.

Selected artists will be invited to come to Manila. Traveling expenses costs for shipping and insurance of the artworks and minor living expenses will be borne by the artists. We will host accommodations and some meals from 22 October to 7 November 2010.

Curatorial Brief
Flaudette May V. Datuin

Nothing to Declare is a Contemporary Art Exhibition aiming to exhibit artworks by international artists, who are enjoined to collaborate and interact, not only with each other but also with their host communities. The pedagogic / educational aspect of the project is an integral component that aims to conduct art educators’ training workshops, essay writing contests and artist talks for children / adolescents in high school and college levels.

The tentative target date is 25 October to 25 November 2011, in several venues in Manila, Philippines, with a possibility for the exhibition to travel to some of the participating artists’ countries in 2012 to 2013.

Project Objective
Nothing to Declare is a project that aims to explore the creative process of visual artists who come to Manila with their cultural specificities and span of professional experience that is varied and diversified.

The project is designed to allow selected international artists to mingle with selected local Filipino artists and share their artistic practices and know-how as regards concept and craft.

This exchange among artists provides the starting point for pedagogical, art-critical and art-education activities.

Nothing to Declare’s exhibition and workshop is expected to be documented in a full color book/catalogue that will comprise critical texts, academic essays, artists’ statements, photo-documentation of the workshop, the community activities as well as of the round-table discussions.

Themes and Discourse
Through the selected works of international and Filipino artists, Nothing to Declare will explore issues of identity, gender, migration —broadly defined as movement not just across waters, land, and air, but also across immediate, virtual and hyper realities—and shifting societies. The title pays particular attention to the role of migration in shaping those social changes by continuous movement, a movement characterized by breaks, dislocations, absences, and silences of those who have nothing to declare.

In an uneven global system where people’s ways of sensing and feeling are de-synchronized and fractured, irreducibly plural, discontinuous and non-homogenous, Nothing to Declare plans to address such phenomena in workshops and round table discussions.

Such disjointed perceptions —which become concretely apparent in states of trance, possession, daydreams, jokes, manic and epileptic seizures— can be understood under the thematic of “picnolepsy”, a category we borrow from Paul Virilio to explain experiences that exist as a series of vacancies and absences, configured in shifting and provisional arrangements, rather than coherent unities, ordered and logical thought.[i] This project is thus interested in those picnoleptic vacancies and absences, the un-saids in human perception and the gaps in human experience, particularly of those at the fringes who fall between the cracks of the “real,” the rational and the visible in a global culture of unequal access amidst material excess, of want and poverty amidst waste and plenty.

The project’s first stopover and point of entry for engaging with and making sense of these gaps and disappearances is Manila, the capital city of what is referred to as “a nation of nannies,”[ii] of exported overseas workers, whose remittances to those they leave behind supposedly keep the economy afloat. [iii]

Project Location
As pilot site for Nothing to Declare, Manila is place as well as metaphor for understanding a particularly nomadic, migratory sensibility characterized by displacements, of absences, and of slippages, that are lived in very real, concrete, at times painful terms in the everyday. “Livedness” and “lived realities” for these families do not only refer to the immediate, the concrete. In life until death, the bodies of these so-called citizens of the world present concrete examples of contradictions, of absent people who are made present through money coming through the wires, a lifeblood circulating —from birth to death— through impersonal, electronic banking and financial circuits of exchange.

For example, there is now a funerary service advertised as “Cyber-Burol” (cyber-wake), where the webcam and the computer can relay images of the bereaved and the dead, a situation where grief and feelings of loss, and pain are played out virtually.

Such virtual realities become very real and pervasive, especially in political circuses, such as elections, which for the first time have become “automated” in 2010 —a development that gives rise to the possibility of failures in elections, a danger that WJT Mitchell[iv] characterized no longer of “things falling apart” —of wars and mass destruction or mass malfunctioning of machines— but of things coming alive: the creation of new, ever-vital, virulent images and life forms: of computer viruses, terrorist sleeper cells, of warlord cells, of smart bombs, and in the case of Philippine elections, of automated Garcis (short for Garcillano, the election commissioner linked to the vote rigging in the presidential elections that in 2004).

Similar circus elections and migration of labor phenomena are found in the homeland of some of the invited artists, from Egypt as a sample of Middle East countries to several Latin American and African nations. Nothing to Declare takes careful note of these movements across realities: movements where copies and objects that, despite or maybe because of having nothing to declare, nonetheless have realities and lives of their own.

As site of political and cultural power, Manila is the seat of the nation-state, one that is constantly challenged by political, cultural and social forces within and without. As source of exported labor and goods, Manila exists in the margins of global politics and economy as well as in relative geographic isolation from the rest of mainland Southeast Asia’s capital cities. However, as port of entry to the rest of the Philippine Islands, Manila is also the junction towards the rest of Asia. As the first destination for Nothing to Declare, Manila becomes a meeting place where people from various points of origin can work together, listen and tell stories of loss and leavings, as well as gains and triumphs.

Nothing to Declare is thus a contribution to contemporary discussion on migration, not only of people across borders, but of forms and realities across time and space, with the dysfunctional city of Manila as initial site. But instead of the subaltern who cannot speak[v], the project focuses on those who have nothing to declare –those whose marginality is source of intervention and strength, of subterfuge and resistance, of constraint as well as change.

[i] Paul Virilio. The Aesthetics of Disappearance. USA: MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. And London, 2009.
[ii] Sheila Coronel , April 2, 2005.
[iii] Data from 2003-2009 of the Bangko Sentral showed that there has been increasing remittance flows from OFWS . In 2003, total remittance was USD7.6 billion. In 2009, total remittance reported was USD17.3 billion. Data on Oversea’s Filipinos Remittances by country, by source are available at
ADB notes that, in the long term, remittances will not help rebalance economic growth as the bank did not find evidence that money sent home by OFWs enhances human or physical capital. See new article on . The article also cites that The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) estimated that almost 10 percent of the Philippine population lives outside the country. The latest estimate puts the population at about 92 million. A copy of the study by the ADB entitled “Remittances and Household Behaviour in the Philippines” is available at
Southeast Asian Migration and Remittances
Workers Remittance Flows in Southeast Asia, ADB, 2006. While the data may be dated, the study is quite comprehensive and includes migration trends in Southeast Asia. The study also cites that nearly 2 million largely women immigrants remit more than USD3 billion from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. A full copy of the study is available in pdf format at
[iv] WJT Mitchell. “the Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Revolution,” What Do Pictures Want? Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
[v] Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. C. Nelson and L. Grossberg, eds. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988.